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Ferdinand Ries: Music for Flute & Piano

Album Summary

>Ries, Ferdinand : Sonata Sentimental, for flute & piano in E flat major, Op. 169
>Ries, Ferdinand : Introduction and Polonaise, for flute & piano, Op. 119
>Ries, Ferdinand : Sonata for flute & piano in G major, Op. 87
>Ries, Ferdinand : Variations on a Portuguese Hymn, for flute & piano, Op. 152/1
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Like most of his contemporaries, Ferdinand Ries was a prolific composer of variations, polonaises and other small-scale works for piano or piano and solo instrument. Intended primarily for the cultivated amateur, these works were composed with the care one would expect from a former pupil of Beethoven and abound in attractive melodic ideas and brilliant instrumental writing. His works for flute and piano include sparkling gems such as the Variations on a Portuguese Hymn (Adeste fideles) and the impressive Sonate Sentimentale, Op. 169, one of the finest works for flute of its time.

"To judge from the number of works composed by Ferdinand Ries (1784 - 1838) that are for, or include, the flute, he really liked composing for the instrument. This is striking evidence that he was not entirely in the shadow of Beethoven (the accusation of imitation plagued him during much of his career), for it is well known that Beethoven disliked the flute and wrote very little for it. Ries, however, composed quite a bit of his instrumental music featuring it, often indicating it as an alternative to the violin part in the violin sonatas. Part of the attraction for Ries probably was the popularity of the flute for amateur music-making; following years of struggle to obtain an audience and publishers for his "serious" music - e.g., the symphonies and piano sonatas - Ries found a style that fitted well with popular taste, and much of that taste was centered on the flute. There was also commercial value in making the solo parts for several different instruments - e.g., the Sonata sentimentale was published for flute or clarinet.

In the thematic catalog by Cecil Hill, the Australian scholar, Ries's first published work for flute ("La trente troisième SONATE pour le Pianoforte Avec accompagnement de Flûte (ad libitum), op. 48") appeared ca.1814. (The numbering of Ries's works can be mysterious, and there is still some confusion surrounding the dates in the various catalogs he himself kept.) The title indication giving the keyboard instrument prime place, incidentally, was standard during that period for chamber works with piano. The flute works mostly date from the time of Ries's arrival and residence in England (1813 - 23), or shortly after his retirement to the Rhine area, where he had been born in 1784.

Ries's skill as a composer is evident in all the works heard here, which can be traced back to his earliest compositions. His adherence to classical forms creates clear structures: sonata form, rondo, and variations. The musical content is engaging, with Ries's characteristic spun-out melodies, affective harmonic language, and idiomatic writing for both instruments. The writing for the flute sparkles with brilliant figuration, letting the flute do what it does best, and the piano part follows suit. The music is beguiling, whether it is fast and brilliant or slow and lyrical. And be prepared for the Portuguese Hymn, which turns out to be the melody of the Christmas hymn Adeste fidelis.

Uwe Grodd, a German-born musician now living and working in New Zealand, is both a fine flutist and the conductor of the New Zealand Symphony in Naxos's ongoing recordings of Ries's piano concertos. Grodd and his equally brilliant and sensitive partner, the pianist Matteo Napoli, play this charming music with zestful spirit and understanding. The two players have a fine, precise ensemble, and the excellent recording achieves a splendid balance between the two instruments. This addition to Naxos's extensive catalog of Ries's music helps to establish that Ries is no longer the forgotten composer in Beethoven's shadow. Recommended."-Fanfare

"Grodd and Napoli give performances that I don't imagine will be surpassed. The two instruments are balanced well on this recording, with a beautiful sound coming from both players. Notes in English and German give plenty of relevant background..."-American Record Guide

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (05/16/2008-05/17/2008).



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Works Details

>Ries, Ferdinand : Sonata Sentimental, for flute & piano in E flat major, Op. 169
  • Performers: Uwe Grodd (Flute); Matteo Napoli (Piano)
  • Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (05/16/2008-05/17/2008)
  • Running Time: 21 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic

>Ries, Ferdinand : Introduction and Polonaise, for flute & piano, Op. 119
  • Performers: Uwe Grodd (Flute); Matteo Napoli (Piano)
  • Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (05/16/2008-05/17/2008)
  • Running Time: 9 min. 56 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic

>Ries, Ferdinand : Sonata for flute & piano in G major, Op. 87
  • Performers: Uwe Grodd (Flute); Matteo Napoli (Piano)
  • Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (05/16/2008-05/17/2008)
  • Running Time: 16 min. sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic

>Ries, Ferdinand : Variations on a Portuguese Hymn, for flute & piano, Op. 152/1
  • Performers: Uwe Grodd (Flute); Matteo Napoli (Piano)
  • Notes: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (05/16/2008-05/17/2008)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 44 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic